Reference Guide for Academic Writing

This guide is a resource designed to help students learn various points about academic writing in English. It contains a number of topics, each one on an aspect of writing that we have identified as difficult for many students.

The topics are listed under the following eight categories:

  • Content: Topics dealing with expressing ideas and referring to sources
  • Structure: Topics dealing with formal structure and textual connections
  • Style: Topics dealing with register, formality, tone, and authorial style
  • Phrasing: Topics dealing with vocabulary, word choice, idiomaticity, and phrasing
  • Grammar: Topics dealing with correctly forming English sentences
  • Punctuation: Topics dealing with the use of punctuation marks and sentence construction
  • Spelling: Topics dealing with correctly writing words in English
  • Formatting: Topics dealing with laying out a text and what elements to include

In the menu at left, you may click on any of these categories to see a list of the topics in that category. Note that a given topic may fall into various categories and so may be found in various lists. For example, "Avoiding Sentence Fragments" has to do with both grammar and punctuation, so it is linked to from both the Grammar list and the Punctuation list.

Each topic is like a mini-article on the subject in question, complete with examples of what to do and what not to do. Whenever possible, we use real examples from student texts. We believe that this gives a much better sense of what can happen "in the real world". We are very grateful to the former students who have made this possible by allowing us to use their material.

You will notice that each topic has the same structure; this is intended not only to make the texts as clear as possible, but also to create a consistency that makes the website easier to use as one becomes more and more familiar with it.